Sydney Conroy

Playing in a world focused on productive capitalist output is radical. Play making space for itself in the cracks of a world of rigid, explainable, objectivity is radical. Play in a world of ‘serious’, adult-centric values of work where you spend most of your time, is radical. Play existing in a world with glass ceilings, exclusionary tables, and kids in cages, is radical. Play in childhood and teenagehood in a world of inequity and inequality is radical. Play as an adult is radical.

I have been internalising and learning from The Nap Ministry for a few years now, a movement that names rest as a form of resistance. And I am struck by how limited people’s view of rest is in their comment section; just napping or going to bed at your ideal time. These commenters are quick to push back and say rest is only accessible for the wealthy and privileged. The radical message gets lost, reduced, misunderstood. Smaller, gentler, choices of saying no or turning off the tv to lay in the grass are not understood as rest.

I am in a research centre focused on play for my PhD and am also a play therapist, and I find myself struck in that same familiar way. In my daily life, I am surprised in the same way I am by the comments on the Nap Ministry’s page. I am surprised by how few people use the language of radicalness when dedicating their lives to play. (Even if many are advocating for play to come into systems that do not operate with the love ethic bell hooks describes; centering play as reform in systems rather than play as a means of abolishment of systems could be an entire dissertation on its own). But that latter sentence speaks to how disembodied play in play research can become. How little play actually happens amongst play professionals. How oppressive systems that many intend to push up against by advocating for play are reiterated when the radicalness of our work is not named. When the ontology is ignored. 

“Play is a form of rest… a rejuvenation.”

Back to Tricia Hersey’s Nap Ministry – play is a form of rest, in my mind. A type of embodied rest that is resistance in the world we occupy. A rejuvenation. It’s something I wish showed up more in discussions by the Nap Ministry and other people or groups focused on building and dreaming up a different world from the one we are in. Where are the spaces to play? Not even in a ping pong or video game type way, even though I advocate for that too. But where are the spaces for people to practise playful conversations? Where are the spaces to catch people who tried to exist playfully out in public and were shamed or harmed? Who is leading in these spaces, these changes? Are the play academics in enough alignment to make changes? The creative arts appear, historically, to have done much of the community outreach – is that responsibility too much for one sector of the play community? Are play activists there, globally?

Play is healing, natural, necessary. Even as I sit in a coffee shop to write this, a man next to me is doodling in the condensation of the shared window in front of us. This, after I just took a photo walk around Cambridge following the recent snowstorm to document all the snow-people created throughout town. Play is compulsive.

What would happen if play folks in the academy, in the mental health field, in the arts, in medicine, in teaching, were intentionally and frequently engaged with the politicalness of play? Of not just bringing play into spaces and systems where it might be fundamentally opposed, but of doing the work of activism – of helping dismantle and dream up spaces where play is valued as radical in the world we currently occupy? What if play folks didn’t seek the stamp of systems where play is intentionally excluded?

I’d like to see it. I’d like to help create it. I’d like to live it.

Feature image credit: Noémi Macavei-Katócz via Unsplash


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